To what extent had Edward IV re-established the authority of the crown by 1483?
Edward IV's fortunate victory at Barnet, followed by success at Tewkesbury with its bloody aftermath, had wiped
the slate clean. The immediate threats to his position as King had been eliminated: the Lancastrians were left
without an obvious champion after the deaths of Henry VI and his son and Warwick's days of ambitious scheming
had finished. Since mere survival was no longer the priority Edward could devote himself to the task of building up
the power of the Crown.
The last remaining threat to the Crown was removed in 1478 when Clarence was attainted.
Whether his actions trully amounted to treason since he had been pardoned in 1471 is somewhat doubtful but his
behaviour was erratic and potentially dangerous: his interest in a Burgundian marriage indicated the extent
of his ambition and he had not heeded the warning when two members of his household had been executed for
treason. The way in which he challenged the Council over this case and disregarded the law in securing the execution of
his wife's "murderers" had contrbuted to his downfall. The message to the rest of Edward's powerful subjects about
the king's power was very clear if he was able to remove his own brother with such ease.
Edward regarded the nobility as his closest allies in controlling the country: his strength depended upon
theirs and he made them his partners in government. They were called upon for advice and he apprecitaed the need to
cultivate good relations with them, rewarding them with gifts from time to time. He relied upon them especially to
control those parts of the country which lay furthest from London and therefore came to delegate vast authority
to seven powerful magnates, some of whom personally built up, like Hastings, or were close relations, like his
younger brother, Richard of Gloucester. As long as their regions did not produce any disorders which
might destabilise Edaward's own position he was confident of their loyalty and would not inquire too deeply into their
methods. This arrangement woked admirably for him as the lack of rebellions indicates but the long-term
deficiencies were starkly revealed as these magnates used their immense power to pursue their own ambitions
once his restraining hand was removed by an untimely death. This was a personal monarchy: what suited one king might
become an embarassment to his successor, who would have to construct his own arrangements.
Inevitably there were others who considered themselves worthy of such responsibility but found themselves overlooked.
Pembroke's heir lost his lands and influence in Wales and was moved to pastures new. Buckingham, much put upon
by being required to marry a Woodville, also hoped for better days. Those like Berkeley, deprived of their
part of the Mowbray inheritance by Edward's sharp practice for the benefit of his son Richard also nursed a grievance.
Much of this was directed against the Queen and her relations who incurred some resentment which
they did little to counter. Such matters did not trouble Edward, but they were able to surface after his death.
Edward had shown that he could play an active role in the enforcement of justice if the case concerned him directly.
He lent his authority by appearing alongside his judges or by making a royal progress in a part of the country which
was being noisome, as was the case in 1475 and 1476. Commision of "oyer and terminer" were issued and he
extended the authority of Justices of Peace, who seemed more concerned about law and order than the sheriffs, whose
principles seemed to have been compromised by the nobility. But there was always a limit to Edward's concern for justice
if he was not affected and complaints about abuse of power by the nobles and their retainers were heard frequently in
parliament, even in 1483. Edward seemed content about to allow them licence in return for their loyalty to him
and so Sir Hugh Bodrugan continued to terrorise his neighbours in Cornwall and effectively avoid punishment despite
an attainder and being outlawed. In 1486 Edward had bowed to pressure and permitted a law against retaining but
there is nothing to suggest he ever intended to enforce it: retainers of loyal nobles might alarm those trying to pursue
their rights in the courts of law, but to Edward they were a potential source of strength.
Royal finances concerned him more since an accumulation of wealth would allow him to be generous with patronage
and to impress with the sumptuousness of his court: the financial embarassment of Henry VI was lesson in the dangers
of a poor King. Edward added to the royal lands through Acts of Attainder and Resumption although often squandering
these assets through generous grants in a manner which would have appalled Henry VII. Yet by improving the administration
of some of his estates by the appointment of recievers and surveyors the yield was improved. The Crown's
feudal rights, such as wardship, were investigated more thoroughly for their financial value and the French pension
was a useful additional resource. Customs proved the most rewarding source as trade revived (partly no doubt due to his
largely peaceful foreign policy and trade agreements) and surveyors reduced evasion. Tough measures against pirates
showed he was in earnest. This provided about half of the annual revenue of £70,000 achieved towards the end of the
reign and Edward's own personal involvement in administration left its mark as the Exchequer was eclipsed as revenues
were diverted into the Chamber where he could more easily supervise matters within his own household. He is renowned
as the first King to die solvent which gives some measure of his achievement - so long as no-one mentions Henry VII!
He managed to avoid seeking parliamentary taxation from 1475 to 1483 having been only too aware of the tension and
murmurings which earlier requests had brought.
Thus by his own lights Edward would have been satisfied with the stability of his government since he felt perfectly
secure. To many of his subjects however his standards may not have been high enough and they did not appreciate
sacrificing law and order for Edward's and his magnates' convenience. Nor did those who survived him perhaps
appreciate the wisdom of endowing a few nobles with so much power. The authority of the Crown seemed firmly re-established
under Edward but his death soon revealed that what suited him had not necessarily secured a long-term future for his dynasty.